Rumour Has It: Solskjaer retains Man Utd's backing, PSG eye swap deal with Barca

By Sports Desk October 18, 2021

Is Ole Gunnar Solskjaer running out of time at Old Trafford?

Manchester United are already five points off the pace in the Premier League and pressure is mounting.

United, though, are believed to be firmly in favour of sticking with their manager.

 

TOP STORY – SOLSKJAER WANTED AT THE WHEEL

Manchester United are still backing under-fire manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, according to Fabrizio Romano.

United slumped to a 4-2 Premier League defeat to Leicester City at the weekend, which has left the Red Devils with just two wins from their past seven games across all competitions.

As pressure mounts on Solskjaer, United still reportedly have faith in the Norwegian amid links with the likes of Antonio Conte, Zinedine Zidane and Erik ten Hag.

 

ROUND-UP

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter are ready to battle Arsenal for Madrid forward Luka Jovic. The Serbia international has struggled for form and fitness in the Spanish capital.

PSG want to swap Mauro Icardi for Barcelona's Sergio Aguero, claims El Nacional. The reports says Lionel Messi wants to reunite with countryman Aguero, who left Manchester City for Barca, only for Messi to join PSG.

- Monaco's Aurelien Tchouameni, Borussia Dortmund's Axel Witsel, Denis Zakaria of Borussia Monchengladbach and Ajax's Ryan Gravenberch are among Juventus' transfer targets as they look to add options in midfield, per Tuttosport. Tchouameni has also been linked with Chelsea, Manchester United, Madrid, Liverpool and Manchester City, while Roma have been eyeing Zakaria.

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    Chelsea slipped from first to third in the Premier League over the weekend after a costly defeat at West Ham, which included a bizarre late winner for the hosts.

    Divock Origi was told to "Be Divock" by Jurgen Klopp, so duly went and scored a 94th minute winner for Liverpool at Wolves, while Ralf Rangnick achieved something his fellow German didn't in his first game as interim boss at Manchester United.

    Antonio Conte and Steven Gerrard also continued their positive starts to respective gigs at Tottenham and Aston Villa in a sentence that feels like it's straight from your favourite football management simulation game rather than real life.

    With all that and more, here are some of the weekend's quirky stats from the Premier League...

     

    Chelsea Hammered

    Did he mean it? Arthur Masuaku says no but your West Ham supporting mates say yes.

    Masuaku's kick of the ball in the 87th minute at the London Stadium flew past Edouard Mendy to inflict Chelsea's second league defeat of the season, toppling them from the summit of the Premier League.

    It was the Frenchman's first Premier League goal in his 96th appearance for the Hammers, from his 29th attempt at goal, if you can even call it that.

    The 3-2 defeat was Chelsea's first in the Premier League after leading at half-time since December 2018 against Wolves under Maurizio Sarri – they had been unbeaten in 48 league games when ahead at half-time before Saturday (W40 D8).

    It is no time to panic for Blues fans, though. The future looks bright with all their talented young players, accompanied by Brazil's answer to Steve Buscemi with a skateboard over his shoulder.

    Aged 37 years and 73 days, Thiago Silva became the oldest player to score for Chelsea in the Premier League, breaking Didier Drogba's record from April 2015 against Leicester City (37 years, 49 days).

    The Late Late Show with Divock Origi

    You could say there was an air of inevitability about it as Divock Origi arrived on the Molineux pitch in the 68th minute on Saturday.

    The Belgian is a man who arguably deserves a statue more than a starting place at Anfield, having scored just once in the league prior to this game since the last day of the 2019-20 season, but who has famously bagged late goals just when his team has needed them.

    His dramatic strike in the closing seconds of this game was Liverpool’s 39th winner scored in 90+ minutes in the Premier League, at least 13 more than any other side. It was also his 10th as a substitute in the Premier League for the Reds, with no player having netted more from the bench for the club in the competition.

    It felt harsh on Wolves, though they had hardly done much to bother their opponents at the other end of the pitch, having just three shots in this game, their fewest in a Premier League match since March 2019 (two vs Chelsea).

    One particularly sore loser will have been skipper Conor Coady. Although a former Liverpool player, he will have been hoping his heroic goal-line block of Diogo Jota's effort, with an xG of 0.604, would have at least secured a point for his team, particularly as the ball hit him square in the Divocks.

     

    King Ralf

    There had not been such anticipation about the future of Manchester United since that bloke Ole was at the wheel. Remember him?

    United's interim gaffer Ralf Rangnick became the sixth German to manage in the Premier League as he stood in the Old Trafford dugout to see his new team beat Crystal Palace, and he was the first to win his debut game in charge in the competition (Felix Magath, Klopp, Jan Siewert, Daniel Farke and Thomas Tuchel all failing to do so before him).

    Following the 1-0 success, six of the last seven managers (including caretakers) have won their first game in charge of the Red Devils in all competitions, with Louis van Gaal being the only exception (he suffered a 2-1 loss against Swansea City at Old Trafford in August 2014).

    United also kept their first clean sheet at home in all competitions since April against Granada in the Europa League, having conceded in 15 consecutive home matches prior to Sunday.

    Fred's impressive winner was his second goal of the season in 12 Premier League matches, as many as he scored in 76 appearances in his first three seasons in the competition beforehand.

    More capital chaos for Canaries

    After their 3-0 defeat at Tottenham, Norwich City have now lost 12 of their past 13 Premier League games in London (W1), conceding 29 goals and scoring just three.

    Antonio Conte became the third Spurs manager to win his first three Premier League home games, after Ryan Mason and Harry Redknapp, but will be hoping that Kane will start to find the net again soon, with the England captain having only scored once in 13 league games this season.

    Norwich manager Dean Smith felt his team were hard done by, and perhaps he had a point when you consider how close the xG of the contest ended, with Norwich's 1.33 only just behind Spurs' 1.52. It was little surprise that Conte's men were more deadly in their finishing though, particularly with Son Heung-min about.

    The South Korea forward has been directly involved in 50 per cent of Tottenham’s league goals this season (six goals, two assists), with only Teemu Pukki (63 per cent) and Emmanuel Dennis (55 per cent) being involved in a higher share of their side's tally.

    Son both scored and assisted in a single Premier League game for the 19th time. Since 2015-16, only Mohamed Salah (22) has done so more often in the competition.

     

    Steve Gerrard, Gerrard, seems management isn't hard

    Doing a stellar job at Rangers is one thing, but Steven Gerrard's management capability was really going to come under the microscope when he moved south to the Premier League.

    It is still early days of course, but so far, the former Liverpool and England midfielder must be wondering what all the fuss was about as he saw his Aston Villa side win again with a 2-1 victory against Leicester City and his former boss Brendan Rodgers.

    Having only won three of their first 11 Premier League games of the season under Dean Smith (D1 L7), Villa have since won three of their first four under Gerrard, with the only failure coming in the narrow 2-1 defeat at home to champions Manchester City.

    Gerrard emphasised on his arrival that he wanted to improve the defence, but Ezri Konsa must have thought he meant at the other end as he bagged a brace on Sunday. In his 216th professional appearance in all competitions, Konsa scored twice in a game for the first time. In doing so, he was the first defender to score a brace for Aston Villa in a Premier League match since Ciaran Clark against Arsenal in November 2010.

    Leicester, meanwhile, are now the first side to both score and concede a goal in 15 consecutive away games in England's top flight since Burnley from April 1961 to March 1962 (16 in a row).

  • Klopp: New Salah deal can't be agreed over a cup of tea in the afternoon Klopp: New Salah deal can't be agreed over a cup of tea in the afternoon

    Jurgen Klopp has reiterated that patience is needed as Liverpool continue to hold contract talks with Mohamed Salah, saying it is not something you can agree over a "cup of tea in the afternoon."

    Salah's current Reds deal expires in June 2023 and his future has long since been the subject of speculation.

    The prolific forward has declared that he wants to remain at Anfield, but no agreement has yet been reached between the club and the Egypt international.

    Salah reportedly told MBC Masr TV that his future is "in the hands of the management and they have to solve this issue",

    Klopp on Monday stated that the club's stance has not changed.

    He said in a news conference on the eve of the Champions League clash at Milan: "We know exactly what he's about and we are talking.

    "Extending a contract with a player like Mo is not a thing you do where you meet for a cup of tea in the afternoon and find agreement. That's completely normal.

    "There's really nothing else to say about Mo. He speaks about it when he asks about it, I can only say a few things because all the rest is not for the public obviously.

    "I'm not sure if he gave the interview in English or it got translated from Arabic into English and this is a massive issue as we say in the last few days again.

    "A lot of things can happen when somebody tries to do that. Mo is fine, I'm fine, I think what we all want is clear and things like this need time, that's it."

    Klopp refused to be drawn on whether Salah will start at San Siro as the Liverpool boss rotates his side amid a hectic schedule with qualification for the round of 16 already secured.

    "We have to rotate, we will rotate, that's clear. We have to is the headline, actually. We will make changes and if you make changes you get in fresh legs, if you get fresh legs you get a high energy in the game, if we have high energy we will have a chance to play a good game," he said.

    "I cannot give you the line-up but we cannot change all [the players]. We will see if Mo plays or not and if he scores. The players are very understanding, not only the players who don't play but the players who have to play.

    "We want to field the best possible side for this situation we are in. We played five games in the last 14 or 15 days, which is a lot.

    "Then after the Milan game we have to play the same number of games in a similar amount of time, so we have to make the right decisions and we will."

  • Guardiola confirms De Bruyne to start in Leipzig Guardiola confirms De Bruyne to start in Leipzig

    Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confirmed Kevin De Bruyne will start their final Champions League group game against RB Leipzig on Tuesday.

    De Bruyne missed a month of action after contracting COVID-19 but made his return off the bench in Saturday's 3-1 win at Watford.

    The Premier League champions have already secured top spot in Group A after their 2-1 win against Paris Saint-Germain on matchday five.

    Speaking at a media conference ahead of City's trip to Germany, Guardiola revealed the Belgian will start the game, saying: "Kevin had the corona, was growing and after had the setback.

    "It's normal, the people who have the corona feel empty. Step by step he plays the minutes, tomorrow he will start and we'll see how many minutes."

    Guardiola also confirmed several youth players will travel for the game, though he also made mention that five substitutions are allowed in the Champions League, two more than in Premier League games, suggesting they may come off the bench rather than start in the Red Bull Arena.

    "They are fantastic young players. They need to settle but the potential is there," he said. "Of course all the guys who play tomorrow want to win, for respect for Leipzig, and respect for Brugge and PSG.

    "Hopefully tomorrow some of them can play - we have five subs, not three like here, so maybe we can use them."

    The game will be played behind closed doors after the German state of Saxony was placed into a partial COVID-19 lockdown.

    "In Germany the situation is not good," the City boss added. "The authorities have decided. We still have to be careful. That is my concern. The situation is dangerous.

    "We need to learn that the situation is not solved. Like the PM said, wear a mask, observe social distance and be careful."

    City left back Oleksandr Zinchenko also spoke at the media conference, and added: "It is sad news for both teams and the fans who wanted to go to the game and for the players as well. 

    "We just play for the fans but the main reason is for our health. I wish everyone is going to be healthy."

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